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Herencia Judía. Benjamin Lapidus. Tresero Productions, 2008.
Timba Talmud. Roberto Rodriguez/Sexteto Rodriguez. Tzadik, 2009.
Herencia Judía and Timba Talmud are recordings that fuse Afro-Caribbean (mainly Cuban) and Jewish (Ashkenazic and Sephardic) traditions. While Roberto Rodriguez/Sexteto Rodriguez’s compilation is largely dance music derived from popular Cuban and klezmer repertoire to be enjoyed in the home or in secular engagements, Lapidus’s album takes on the difficult task of arranging piyyutim (paraliturgical hymns) and texts from Jewish holidays with secular and religious musics of the Spanish Caribbean. Lapidus and Rodriguez’s impressions of musical encounter are presented as audiotopias—ideological spaces that offer the listener and/or the musician new maps for re-imagining the present social world. They are spaces with no real place where ideological contradictions and conflicts may coexist. Yet, the proliferation of a variety of Cuban musical idioms such as rumba, son, cha-cha-chá, mambo, and comparsa assure a focus on Cuban sound on both albums. Ultimately, by playing with musical materials from Afro-Caribbean, Cuban, and Jewish traditions, both Lapidus and Rodriguez must contend with the difficulties of finding a coherent musical point of view. In this respect, Rodriguez more successfully streamlines his vision, maintaining a focus on (predominantly) popular styles and images in comparison to Lapidus, whose strategy can feel almost overwhelmingly eclectic at times. Read the rest of this entry »
Leo Zeitlin: Chamber Music. Paula Eisenstein Baker and Robert S. Nelson, eds. Middleton, WI: A-R Editions, 2009. lxxxiv+199 pp. ISBN 978-0-89579-645-5
Leo Zeitlin’s life and music became a subject of Paula Eisenstein Baker’s research about twenty years ago. Fascinated by Zeitlin’s masterpiece “Eli Zion” for cello and piano, Eisenstein Baker, a cellist with a keen interest in musicology, started to investigate the life and works of this remarkable, but almost unknown, composer. Her research has resulted in this publication of Zeitlin’s chamber music compositions, which is accompanied by a carefully reconstructed biography of the composer, a critical study of his works, and a comprehensive presentation of text settings from the vocal works in Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian.